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NEWS 6.27.22: Monkeypox in Nebraska, Support for Siouxland Bike Trails, IA SUPCO Finalists, and More


Former South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has asked a state ethics board to press for an investigation of fellow Republican Gov. Kristi Noem. Ravnsborg blames the governor for his impeachment and removal from office last week for his conduct surrounding a fatal crash in 2020. As attorney general, Ravnsborg, last year filed a pair of complaints against Noem to the state’s Government Accountability Board. He alleges she inappropriately interfered in a state agency while it was evaluating her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license and misused state airplanes. The board has not made a decision on whether to investigate Noem. It's working with an attorney to evaluate the merits of the complaints

South Dakota’s Republican governor is pledging to bar mail-order abortion pills but says women shouldn't face prosecution for seeking them. Kristi Noem's stand appears to be in defiance of legal guidance by the Justice Department after the Supreme Court last week stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion. The governor is indicating that she'd put in place a plan approved by state lawmakers to restrict the abortion pills. The ruling Friday by the court’s conservative justices triggered abortion bans in South Dakota and elsewhere. But Noem says in news show interviews that doctors, not their patients, would likely be prosecuted for knowing violations of what would be one of the strictest laws on abortion pills in the United States.

Nebraska reports its first case of Monkeypox. The patient is a man in his 30s who recently traveled internationally. The state epidemiologist says, “Monkeypox is spread through close contact with someone who has a characteristic rash.”

Monkeypox has sickened people for decades in central and west Africa, where one version is the disease kills up to 10% of people infected. The version is seen in Europe and elsewhere has a fatality of less than 1%, and no deaths beyond Africa have been reported, according to the Associated Press.

News release from the State of Nebraska:

First Case of Monkeypox Identified in Nebraska

Lincoln, Neb. – The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) have identified a Nebraska resident with a positive orthopoxvirus test, which was identified as orthopoxvirus at the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory (NPHL). The specimen is expected to be confirmed as monkeypox by follow up CDC testing. The patient is a male in his 30s with recent international travel. DHHS is working with DCHD and CDC to investigate potential exposures and will notify those individuals if any exposures are identified. To protect the resident’s privacy, DHHS will not be releasing additional details.

“As monkeypox infections are increasingly identified throughout the US and the world, it’s critical we continue searching for it here in Nebraska,” said Dr. Matthew Donahue, Nebraska State Epidemiologist. “Monkeypox is spread through close contact with someone who has a characteristic rash. Nebraskans should be aware of the rash’s appearance, and we need individuals with that characteristic rash to talk to their healthcare providers so we can help arrange testing.”

While monkeypox is not a traditional sexually transmitted infection, it can be transmitted through prolonged physical contact, such as through sexual intimacy. Currently, the outbreak is disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men who are sexually active. However, anyone with prolonged physical contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk of developing monkeypox.

It is important to be aware of the current outbreak and follow the preventative measures described below:

About Monkeypox

Symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the genitals, anus, face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, or chest.
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches or backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. This process can take several weeks
  • Pictures of the characteristic rash: https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/symptoms.html

Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.

Several measures can be taken to prevent infection:

  • Avoid close contact with the skin of someone with the characteristic rash
  • Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs).
  • Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a sick animal.
  • Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection.
  • Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for a patient 

DHHS strongly recommends that anyone who is experiencing symptoms of an unexplained rash on their face, palms, arms, legs, genitals, or perianal region that may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms to contact their healthcare provider.
For more information regarding monkeypox, please click here.

A new report has ranked Iowa 22nd in the nation for its performance on COVID-19-related health measures.

The Commonwealth Fund’s annual State Health System Performance scorecard ranks states on 49 health-related measures.

This year the report added seven measures specifically related to COVID-19.

David Radley is the lead researcher on the health policy think tank’s report. He says between August 2020 and March 2022, Iowa’s ICUs were at more than 80 percent capacity for 117 of those days. That makes it 27th in the nation for this measure.

Anytime you're near or above that, that sort of 80% threshold, it really is putting a lot of stress on the delivery system. And we certainly saw that play out in Iowa.

The report ranked Iowa’s overall health performance at 17th in the nation.

A new report has ranked Iowa 22nd in the nation for its performance on COVID-19-related health measures.

The Commonwealth Fund’s annual State Health System Performance scorecard ranks states on 49 health-related measures.

But this year the health policy think tank added seven measures related to COVID-19.

David Radley is the lead researcher on the report.

He says one measure that stuck out to him was the number of days it took Iowa to fully vaccinate its population 12 and older.

So the fastest states got that 70%, you know, vaccine – fully vaccinated in around 200 days in Iowa it took 431 days. So, you know, that's, that's sort of double the fastest pace. :15

Iowa ranked 28th in the nation on that measure.

However, Iowa came in at 17th in the nation for its overall health performance. That marks a significant drop from fourth in the organization’s last full report in 2020.

Local health departments are taking appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations for children six months to four-years-old. The Deputy Director of Siouxland District Health tells Siouxland Public Media says the first found of appointment for that age group started on Friday. So, far demand is “fairly show at the moment.” The Dakota County Health Department is also scheduling shots after the FDA recently approved the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines for the youngest demographic of Americans.

Information from the Dakota County Health Department is found below.

Testing Span. (2).png

The state commission that selects candidates to nominate to the Iowa Supreme Court is hearing from five people today who have applied to fill an upcoming vacancy.

Radio Iowa reports the first person to talk with commission members was Patrick Tott of Sioux City. He is the Third Judicial District Chief Justice and says that his other experience makes him a good choice for the Supreme Court.

“I know what it’s like to work in associate district court, I know what it’s like to work in district court. And I can bring those perspectives to the Supreme Court if I’m given that opportunity,” he said. Tott said his record shows he has the intellectual capacity to serve — and the temperament to work with other judges.

Story update:

INTRO: A list of three Iowa Supreme Court nominees is now with Governor Kim Reynolds.

The three nominees were chosen after the State Judicial Nominating Commission held public interviews with five applicants for Iowa’s highest court.

They include David May, a judge on the Iowa Court of Appeals, Des Moines attorney Bill Miller, and Clayton County District Court Judge Alan Heavens.

Heavens was asked how the judicial branch can address the wide disparity of Black Iowans in prison. He

The nominee chosen for the court will fill the vacancy made by Justice Brent Appel’s retirement.

Some demonstrators at weekend Iowa rallies expressed concern issues like same-sex marriage or contraception might be next to be revisited by the U.S. Supreme Court, after last week’s rulings on guns and abortion.

Radio Iowa reports Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley doubts such issues would be reconsidered by the high court.

In his concurring opinion issued Friday, Justice Clarence Thomas said the Supreme Court should reconsider opinions that protect same-sex relationships, marriage equality, and access to contraceptives.

United State Department of Justice officials said five Iowans face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl.

Authorities said the arrests are part of a six-month investigation into a series of fentanyl overdose cases occurring in Cass and Shelby Counties.
KCCI Television in Des Moines reports each defendant faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison if convicted.

An Iowa man has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for fatally shooting an Iowa State Patrol trooper last year during a standoff and shootout with police. The mandatory sentence was handed down Monday, a little more than a month after a jury found 42-year-old Michael Lang guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and assaulting a police officer for his actions on April 9, 2021, that killed patrol Sgt. Jim Smith. Smith was shot as he led a tactical team into Lang’s home to arrest him following Lang’s assault of another officer during a traffic stop that day. Smith was a 27-year patrol veteran. Judge Joel Dalrymple also ordered Lang to pay $150,000 in restitution to Smith’s estate.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A 71-year-old Iowa City man who seriously wounded a U.S. Marine while shooting an air rifle at a squirrel has been fined $855 after pleading guilty in April to a misdemeanor. The Press-Citizen reports that Philip Olson was issued the fine Thursday for violating an Iowa City ordinance prohibiting the discharge of toy guns and slingshots. Police have said Olson was shooting at a squirrel in his yard last October when he hit then 20-year-old Gabe Heefner, of Kirkwood, Missouri, who was driving by. Police found Heefner in a wrecked car with what looked like a gunshot wound to the head. At the time, Heefner was a lance corporal in the Marines who was in Iowa City visiting his grandparents and friends.

Monday marks 27 years since a Mason City morning news anchor was last seen. The morning anchor never made it to work on June 27, 1995, and her whereabouts remain a mystery.

Police found signs of a struggle outside Jodi Huisentruit's apartment.

Investigators believe she was abducted, but have never named a suspect.

Marlin Briscoe, the first Black starting quarterback in the American Football League, died Monday. His daughter, Angela Marriott, told The Associated Press that Briscoe, 76, died of pneumonia at a hospital in Norwalk, California. He had been hospitalized with circulation issues in his legs. Briscoe was a star quarterback at Omaha University before the Denver Broncos drafted him as a cornerback in the 14th round in 1968. He told the team he wanted a tryout at quarterback. Denver agreed to an audition, and the 5-foot-10 dynamo nicknamed “The Magician” made the starting lineup on October 6.

The Siouxland Regional Trail System that links several communities received a big boost. The Iowa Economic Development Authority awarded the project $7 million to help provide more than 100 miles of continuous trails to connect the communities of Sioux City, Le Mars, Hinton, Merrill and Sergeant Bluff.

News release from the State of Iowa:

Gov. Reynolds, IEDA announce $16.5M in first round of Destination Iowa funding for quality of life and tourism

DES MOINES--Today, Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) announced $16.5 million in grant funding for the following four projects through Destination Iowa. The $100 million program, announced in April, invests in transformational attractions that will bolster the quality of life in Iowa communities and attract visitors and new residents.

“Communities in all corners of the state are creating unique destinations, from the Field of Dreams in Dyersville to a thriving arts and culture scene in Sioux City,” Governor Reynolds said. “Destination Iowa will help more communities fuel tourism and economic growth while enhancing the quality of life for Iowans.”

The Siouxland Regional Trail System was awarded $7,000,000 to develop five trail projects and connect the communities of Sioux City, Le Mars, Hinton, Merrill, Sergeant Bluff. The project will provide over 100 miles of continuous trail projects in the area and includes the Cone Mountain Bike Park, the 18.5-mile PlyWood Trail and 4.3-mile Loess Hills Scenic Trail.

Universal Television, LLC, was awarded $6,000,000 for the development of a Field of Dreams television series. Filming will be based in several Iowa counties including Polk, Mahaska, Boone and Clinton, with primary sets located in Polk City. Plans include set construction of a ball field and refurbishment of a farmhouse in Polk City. Filming is scheduled to begin in 2022.

Polk County Conservation was awarded $2,500,000 for the Easter Lake North Shore Project, which will transform Des Moines’ Easter Lake into an accessible recreational hub for rowing, swimming, fishing, and other water sports. Plans include adaptive fishing boats, accessible canoe/kayak launches, an inclusive playground for children of all abilities, and an environmental education learning center.

Dallas County Conservation was awarded $1,000,000 to complete the remaining four miles of trail to connect the Raccoon River Valley Trail and High Trestle Trail in central Iowa. This project will create a 120-mile continuous loop of trails and connect two existing popular trails.

IEDA began accepting applications on May 9 and will continue to review applications as they arrive through December 31 or until funding runs out. Applications are scored based on eligibility, completeness, and the project’s ability to meet the program goal of creating transformational tourism attractions. Cities, counties, nonprofits and other organizations can apply for Destination Iowa grants through four separate funds: Economically Significant Development, Outdoor Recreation, Tourism Attraction, and Creative Placemaking.

Funded projects must be completed by June 30, 2026. For more information on the Destination Iowa program, visit iowaeda.com/destination-iowa/. Funding for this program is being made available through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

The community of Estherville came together early Monday morning to rescue a trapped bulldog. For more on the story click here:

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.